Schizophrenia doesn’t directly cause seizures — but research says that schizophrenia is more common in people with epilepsy.

Schizophrenia doesn’t technically cause seizures, but the two share a link.

Epilepsy is a seizure disorder. People living with the condition are at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia or similar mental health conditions. Similarly, those living with schizophrenia are more prone to seizures.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that can affect your daily life. The disorder affects less than 1% of people in the United States. People with schizophrenia experience distortions of reality through hallucinations and delusions, among other schizophrenia symptoms.

The symptoms of schizophrenia don’t typically include seizures, and schizophrenia doesn’t directly cause seizures.

However, people with epilepsy have a higher risk of schizophrenia. A 2005 study noted that people with epilepsy had about 2.5 times the risk of developing schizophrenia and almost 3 times the risk of experiencing schizophrenia-like psychosis.

What is a psychotic seizure?

People with epilepsy may be more likely to receive a diagnosis of a mood disorder like depression and anxiety disorders.

While less common than anxiety or depression, some people with epilepsy experience psychosis, which means they have trouble knowing what is real and what is not. Psychosis affects 2% to 9% of those with epilepsy.

Dopamine levels in your brain appear to play a part in developing schizophrenia symptoms in epilepsy. Also, experiencing a seizure in specific parts of your brain can lead to schizophrenia symptoms like psychosis.

If you have epilepsy, you have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia-like symptoms.

According to a 2007 study, the psychotic symptoms experienced during epilepsy share some characteristics with schizophrenic psychosis, such as delusions and hallucinations.

Temporal lobe epilepsy occurs when you experience seizures in the brain’s temporal lobe. When seizures originate here, symptoms of psychosis follow, which can include:

  • detecting smells that are not there
  • anxiety
  • aggression
  • trouble thinking clearly
  • memory loss

Epileptic psychosis can also occur in the postictal period of a seizure (the time just after the seizure ends). During this time you may experience psychosis that lasts anywhere from a couple of hours to days.

In the postictal period, your brain is working to return to its natural state. But, sometimes, it isn’t easy to distinguish when the episode ends and when you return to baseline.

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that includes disrupted thinking patterns, emotional responses, and perceptions.

Symptoms include:

  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • disorganized thinking
  • lack of emotional expression
  • low motivation
  • social difficulties
  • muscle weakness and contractions
  • poor balance

The condition is very complex without a known cause or cure. You can undergo treatment to help manage your symptoms.

Risk factors for people with schizophrenia to have seizures include:

  • Genetics. A 2012 study of thousands of families found those with a parent with epilepsy were twice more likely to develop psychosis.
  • Traumatic brain injury. When the brain is injured, people can experience psychosis or develop a seizure disorder.

Do I need emergency help when I have a seizure?

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) recommend calling 911 for a seizure when one or more of these are true:

  • You have never had a seizure before.
  • You find it hard to breathe or wake up after the seizure.
  • The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
  • You have another seizure soon after the first.
  • You injured yourself during the seizure.
  • The seizure occurred in water.
  • You have other health conditions, like diabetes or heart disease.
  • You are pregnant.

There’s still much to learn about the complex disease process of both schizophrenia and epilepsy, and it may not always be preventable. You can read about factors that can help prevent seizures here.

Visiting your doctor regularly, taking your medication as directed, and prioritizing a balanced diet and exercise routine are good ways to protect your health.

If you experience a seizure for the first time, it’s important to seek care immediately. First, a doctor will perform a medical exam and review your health history to make an accurate diagnosis. They may also order an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the seizure activity in your brain.

You may need to take antiseizure medications with antipsychotic drugs to better manage your symptoms.

The medication risperidone is considered a first-line treatment with low seizure risk for those who experience psychosis immediately after a seizure.

Additionally, you may need to learn seizure precautions while educating your loved ones on what to do if you experience a seizure.

Seizure precautions

There are steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe when a seizure occurs:

  • Ease the person to the floor.
  • Turn them gently on their side to help them breathe.
  • Clear the area around the person to keep them safe.
  • Place something soft and flat under their head.
  • Remove eyeglasses.
  • Loosen ties or restrictive clothing that may prevent them from breathing.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends and they’re fully awake.
  • Once awake, help them sit in a safe place until they’re more alert to communicate and let them know what happened.
  • Comfort the person while speaking calmly.
  • Check to see if the person is wearing a medical bracelet or has emergency information on them.
  • Stay calm and remind others to do the same.
  • Offer to call a car ride service or their loved one to get home safely.

Schizophrenia doesn’t directly cause seizures, but there’s a link between the two.

People with epilepsy, a seizure disorder, have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia — and those living with schizophrenia are more prone to experiencing seizures.